How the Media Misrepresents Thailand
The popular Australian mini-series 
Bangkok Hilton, about the arrest of Australians for drug-running in Thailand, is one of a number of media portrayals that feeds into the many stereotypes of Thailand. The media misrepresents Thailand by covering the problems that the country faces instead of the progress the country has made or the fact that Thailand is ranked as one of the world’s best tourist destinations. Negative aspects that the media often sensationalize include sex trafficking, drugs and AIDS.

Fighting Sex Trafficking Through Tourism

Although sex trafficking continues to be a problem within Thailand, the media often covers only the bad and not what the country is doing to fight sex trafficking. Thai authorities and officials have committed themselves to cleaning up the country through advocacy and tourism. “The Thai government alone cannot solve the problem. We need the hotel groups, we need the tourists, we need everybody who can to join in,” said Malina Enlund, a member of the anti-trafficking group A21.

Because of Thailand’s huge tourism sector, making up 19.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, the country has used its tourism to combat sex trafficking. Not only has the country begun training hotel employees and airline staff about how to spot sex trafficking, but the government has even insisted that its airline, Thai Airways, show an in-flight video about sex trafficking to all incoming tourists.

Replacing Opium Poppy Farming With Cash Crop Production

For decades, Thailand has been known as the epicenter of drugs in Southeast Asia. Thailand is developing at a fast pace, the culture is changing and people want a better standard of life. Unfortunately, drug trafficking gives many the economic means to do so.

However, the media misrepresents Thailand as a drug-stricken country with no escape, rather than focusing on what the Thai government has done to address the issue. One effective program instituted under King Bhumibol worked to “replace opium poppy farming with cash crop production.” This program has helped more than 100,000 people transform their drug crop production into “sustainable agricultural activities.” Stanford postdoctoral fellow Darika Saingam stated that the program is [a] win-win because it stymies drug trade and provides economic opportunity while also being ecologically sound.”

The Media Misrepresents Thailand by Ignoring Its Efforts to Combat HIV/AIDS

The media misrepresents Thailand by only reporting when Thailand sees an increase of HIV/AIDS within its population, such as a 2016 report that stated there were an estimated 450,000 Thai people living with HIV. In 2017, the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand launched the National AIDS Strategy, a 13-year plan to end the epidemic, “ensuring an effective, cost-efficient and high-impact HIV response” by 2030. It is evident that the country has listened to the outcry of its people and the international community and is taking action.

Although Thailand faces many problems, an obsession with the negative aspects is how the media is able to misrepresent the country as a whole. Such news reports fail to represent the culture and people of Thailand. Furthermore, it is important to understand that Thailand is taking the appropriate steps to become a safe, flourishing, and integrated country in the world and should be further recognized for its significant development.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr